"As long as the lush greenery of the Western Ghats exists, no Keralite has to starve." Thus began a newspaper report (later published as a book) on a controversial forest theft which shook the Government decades back. Let us have a trek under the canopy of Western Ghats to experience the vibrations of one of the world's most sought after bio-diversity extravaganza.
Till mid 18th century major part of Kerala was covered by forests. Sandalwood, Rosewood, Mahogany and Teak are common. The forests abound with balsam, anthurium, orchids and medicinal plants species, banyan figs, bamboo as well as forty thousand years old grasslands. Mangroves are seen in coastal areas and morass lands. This attracted foreigners to Kerala. Natives of Babilonia, Rome and other places came to Kerala for trade. Forest began to be destroyed for trade purposes. By the end of the fifteenth century Vasco da Gama discovered a sea route to India, which enabled foreigners to reach Kerala. Europeans gained monopoly of trade.
Foreigners began to exploit our forest wealth. Hence authorities were forced to think deeply on conservation measures. The history of Department of Forests is quite interesting. Initially the administration in Travancore had no control over forest wealth. Later Government implemented certain regulations. Government undertook felling of trees from forest and made arrangements to sell them via wood depot. The first wood depot was started in Alappuzha in 1820. That was the beginning of Travancore Forest department. The depot was in the name of Captain Robert Gorden, who was the first commercial agent and forest conservator from Bombay engineers. His responsibility was to collect and sell woods and cardamom. Later his responsibility was cut short to that of a commercial agent. U.V. Munro was given the charge of conservator. Munro and the officials under him constituted the first Forest department. In 1864, Government appointed more officials to strengthen forest conservation. In 1886, Government divided the department into six subdivisions.
In 1813, an official with designation 'Malamel Vicharipu' was appointed in Kochi to collect trees from forest. Later Government appointed J.A. Kolhoff as the first conservator of Kochi in 1835. He prepared the forest laws. Range system was initiated in 1908. In Malabar, Forest department was initially under the control of Collector. Captain Gibb was appointed as the first district Forest officer of Wayanad in 1866. English East India Company had exported Teak from Nilambur forest in large amounts. Availability of teak became scarce. Teak got declared as the 'royal tree'. In 1840, Court of Directors of Indian Navy suggested to plant Teak artificially. H.V. Konoly was given the charge. Thus the first Teak plantation in the world was started in Nilambur on 1842.
When Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi merged to form Thiru-Kochi State in 1949, the designation of the head of Forest department bacame Chief Forest conservator. TV. Venkiteshwar was the first one to hold that post. Forest department was divided into two circles. Conservator was in charge of these circles. In november 1956, when Malabar merged with Thiru-Kochi to form Kerala State, number of circles got increased to three.
Forest Conservation Measures, Conservation of wildlife and forest.